SHTF

There are many reasons to get involved with Amateur (Ham) Radio, but the Prepper community should consider the use of Amateur Radio in the aftermath of a regional or global event, AKA when the SHTF.  Generally speaking, after a major weather event, cell phone towers are damaged, land lines don't work and all Internet traffic is cut. Unless you have a satellite phone, you will be cut off from contact with people outside the affected area. At the very least, your friends and relatives will be frantic with worry. In the case of a medical emergency, Amateur Radio could save your life.

In the "good old days", getting a Ham Radio license was a big deal. You had to pass a written test covering electronics theory, FCC rules and regulations and radio operating procedures. In addition to that, you had to be able to demonstrate the ability to send and receive International Morse Code at a rate of 5, 13 or 20 words per minute, depending upon the class of license. To add icing on the cake, tests were only available at regional FCC offices. If you lived in some parts of the country, the nearest FCC office could be a long journey.

Fast forward to the new century and all that has changed. There is no longer a requirement to learn International Morse Code, the written tests consists of questions taken from a question pool and tests are conducted by groups of Ham Radio volunteers. The fee to take a test is currently $15 pass or fail and if you  pass more than one test, it's still $15. If you fail a test, you can try again for another $15.

There are only three Ham Radio license classes with progressively more privileges. The starting class is called Technician, the intermediate class is General and the highest class is called Extra. Technician class operators can operate on Amateur Radio frequency bands above 30 MHz and limited operations in certain HF bands. I would suggest passing the Technician test followed by the General test. The only difference between General and Extra is a couple of slivers of HF bands reserved for International Morse Code. Generally speaking, Technicians are limited to VHF and UHF frequencies that facilitate short range communications. (For you old time Hams, I know, there are exceptions, but this is just an introduction to Ham Radio.) Get your General Class license if you want to talk to the other side of the country or world.

You do not need to purchase books or study materials to pass the tests. Here is the link for the American Radio Relay League's question pool download page. Follow other links on ARRL's web site to learn more about the three license classes and find a place to take your test.

Once you get your license, new and used radio equipment is available on the Internet or Ham Fests. One thing to remember, an older, cheaper tube and transistor transceiver is more likely to survive an EMP than a modern microprocessor controlled rig. Something to ponder.